Davos: In an unlikely opening for an event known as annual congregation of movers and shakers of global economy, it is Oscar and Golden Globe winner Hollywood actress Charlize Theron getting awarded for her work towards fight against AIDS that has marked this year`s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Giving Theron company in getting accolades at this annual event in the Swiss ski town of Davos were Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz.
"I can think of no bigger shadow than the one cast upon Africa -- that is AIDS and HIV," Theron said after getting the Crystal Award in opening ceremony of WEF Annual Meeting last night.
Theron, whose native place happens to be Africa and who has been working towards fighting the widespread presence of this disease in the region, said that Africa accounts for two-third of the HIV/AIDS deaths worldwide, but time has come for everyone to come forward to ensure the first ever generation of no one being born with this virus.
A United Nations messenger for peace in Africa, Theron said that her aim is also to work towards making the youth of the region safe from AIDS.
Theron also had her portrait taken at the WEF summit for a campaign named `Big Push` against diseases like AIDS/HIV, Malaria and TB.
Joining Theron as another Crystal Award winner, Chinoy said: "It is difficult for people like me to live in Pakistan. But I still live there because of the power of films."
Chinoy, who began writing at the age of 14 and whose documentary on acid attacks led to a major debate in Pakistan and elsewhere, said that it was the power of films that led to acid attacks on women being made a crime where people can be sent to jails.
Awards were given by Hilde Schwab, wife of WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, who declared open the meeting with a call for `soul, heart, brains and good nerves`.
Seeking to establish the Davos meeting as an event that actually does something meaningful for the society and the world, rather than just being a jamboree of rich and powerful of the world, the WEF has been trying hard to present this meeting as a socio-economic conscious congregation of people from different walks of life.
With an aim to take forward the cause of gender equality, it had earlier made it mandatory for all the participating organisations to nominate one woman for every four men sent for the event. However, the step does not seem to have been of much help, as the female participation in this year`s meeting is also very low at less than 20 per cent.
This is despite some top women leaders, such as IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attending the event repeatedly, while Yahoo`s Marissa Mayer and Facebook`s Sandy Shelberg and a host of other top women executives have also joined numerous economic and political leaders to discuss the state of affairs for the world economy.
The awards were presented to three "cultural leaders" -- artist Vik Muniz, the documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, and Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron some of whose noted films include Prometheus, Hancock, The Italian Job and Monster.
Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship who presented the awards said the award is "to celebrate artists who not only excel in their art but also help to improve the world".
The actress Charlize Theron, founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, said she seeks to use the spotlight she attracts as an entertainer to draw attention to one of the world`s greatest problems, the HIV epidemic.
Theron called the eradication of mother-to-child HIV transmission an "incredible stride" but said much work remains to ensure that youth has "the resources, skills and lifesaving information to lead an HIV-free life".
South Africa has the largest HIV positive population in the world, and sub-Saharan Africa is home to three quarters of the world`s HIV positive youth.
The artist Vik Muniz, Vik Muniz Studio, USA, said for the past 10 years, he has worked to "use art as an element of inclusion" and "to make art a right, not a privilege".
To achieve these goals, he is taking art out of exclusive exhibition spaces. One such project, his work with Brazilian garbage pickers, became an award-winning documentary film, Waste Land.
The documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, SOC Films, Pakistan, said that film has the power to change lives. A recent film of hers impacted legislation in Pakistan, causing acid attacks to be treated as terrorism and punished with prison terms.
PTI / Barun Jha